“AAAAAANNNNNNNDDDDDDD GOOD AFTERNOON EVERYBODY! HOW ARE YOU TODAY?”
The signature opening of the Mike and the Mad Dog radio program, heard everyday between 1 and 6:30 on WFAN in New York City will never be heard again on the stations airwaves as long time afternoon host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo was released from his contract after nearly 20 years of co-hosting one of the most successful radio shows in history.
Living in New York, Mike and the Dog, or as I (along with others) more lovingly refer to them as Fatboy and Fruitloops, spent the last 20 years becoming as big a fixture in New York sports as any of the teams they spoke about.
Their unique combination of ferociousness (Francesa) and lunacy (Russo) captured the ears of New Yorkers and made them households names for any true New York sports fan.
Despite their flaws, which are probably too many to count, they had an indescribable appeal which had listeners (and viewers following their simulcasts on the YES network) tuning in day after day, suffering from what I would best describe as “trainwrecks disease”, as no matter how much one couldn’t stand them, day in day out you found yourself listening to what they had to say, regardless of how much you agreed or disagreed with them.
As one of their fans, going to school outside of the area forced me to see much more of them than I probably ever should have been subjected to, but watching them on YES every day up in Syracuse kept me touch with the sports scene back home, and allowed me to get inside access to athletes, managers and coaches I couldn’t get anywhere else.
It really is the end of an era and sad day here in New York, of course while trying to keep things in perspective- nobody died and both men will certainly continue to live secure lives financially (both pull in well over 7 digits a year), however drives home will never be the same without Dog’s ranting and raving about anything and everything, and Mike’s know-it-all, condescending remarks that drove you crazy yet still left a smile on your face.
While they would have you convinced otherwise, these two guys hardly knew what they were talking about all the time, but their distinctively different personalities are what made the show so addictive, and while you never really knew a whole lot about their personal relationship, hearing them argue with one another only created the sort of on air awkwardness that had you coming back for more.
Over the years, including many before I ever heard of either of them, they had their issues including a time when Mike was away and Russo came on the air and started the show by introducing it as the Mad Dog and Mike show (or something to that effect) which resulted in Francesa calling in and demanding an apology.
The tension always seemed to be there yet was sort of like the big elephant in room, and only recently got to the point of no return, as after nearly 20 years, Mike and the Mad Dog are no more.
Reports say that Mike Francesa has signed a new multi-year deal with WFAN and will host the show solo, while Russo was released from contract under “mutual” terms. There have been rumors that he was seeking a new deal with Sirius satellite radio.
Personally, I can’t think of any aspect of the media more synonymous with sports here in New York than Mike and the Mad Dog, and not having the two of them together anymore is disappointing.
We’ll see if the FAN decides to replace Russo in any capacity, although for the time being it appears as though they wont, leaving Mike without his partner of the last two decades.
And listeners without their favorite dog.
(the following was originally posted on my Sports Illustrated blog about an hour after the Jets acquired the future hall of famer, very early Thursday morning)
It isn’t often I’m woken up in the middle of a great sleep more excited than I was at 12:09 AM when I found out the shoe in Hall of Fame Quarterback Brett Favre will be wearing a different shade of green this season when he suits up for the New York Jets.
Favre, 38, had retired only 5 months ago following a season which saw him revive his legendary career while taking the Green Bay Packers on a Super Bowl run that ended with a loss in the NFC championship game to the eventual world champion New York Giants.
Now, after playing his entire career in the quaint confines of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Favre will now deal with both the bright lights of New York as well as the flashbulbs generated by what should be an unprecedented media circus which should be awaiting Favre’s New York arrival.
The immediate impacts of this deal will likely be Chad Pennington seeing his Jet career end as Favre’s begin.
Pennington’s contract is an easy asset to subtract for salary cap purposes, as Favre, a Super Bowl champion with the Packers in 1996, comes in not only with his hall of fame credentials but a hefty salary to boot.
The trade, which as early Thursday morning was confirmed by several media outlets, sees the Jets swaping a conditional draft pick (likely a 3rd or 4th round pick) that depending on both the performance of Favre and the Jets can become as high as a 1st or 2nd round pick.
This move gives instant credibility to a team that is clearly second string in New York behind the Giants, something that has been apparent even before the Giants knocked off New England in Super Bowl XVII.
Favre will now be taking snaps in the same stadium the team many believed he had ended his career against (his pass that was intercepted by Giants CB Corey Webster led to the Giants winning the NFC championship game back in Jan.).
Favre can expect early fan support, however unlike in Green Bay where he was comperable to the Pope, the honeymoon may not last in New York should Favre not produce.
Make no mistake, that upon his arrival and throughout his first few home games, the reaction should be nothing short of overwhelming, however New Yorker’s have been and always will be a ‘what have you done for me lately’ type of town, so simply being Brett Favre won’t be enough to maintain cheers should the Jets find themselves in the midst of another disappointing season.
Not since Joe Namath has there been a football presence wearing Green in New York, and Favre joins New York far more established and accomplished than Namath ever was.
When he retired back in February, he was the NFL’s all time leader in touchdown passes and retired as the league’s only three-time most valuable player.
He brings a hard working, blue collar attitude to a Jets team that lacked everything from talent to toughness last season, yet instantly improves their ballclub in both regards with the acquisition of the 17 year veteran.
Favre now makes the Jets at the very least a playoff contender, however calling the Jets a Super Bowl favorite or even playoff lock is outrageous.
However, right now, the Jets have made the splash of the NFL offseason, adding arguably the biggest name in the sport (or as of Sunday the biggest name back in the sport) in Brett Favre.
It takes a lot to upstage the team you share a stadium with who is coming off a Super Bowl winning season, however it’s fair to say Favre’s 2008 season in New York, with the Jets, pushes the champion Giants off the back pages, even if only for a little while.
For Jets fans critical of this trade, as a fellow Jets fan who has been suffering with the irrelevant play of this team, it’s tough not to be a huge fan of this move, as neither Chad Pennington or Kellen Clemens had me convinced this team was any better than a 6 win team, regardless of the off season spending spree the team went on.
Head coach Eric Mangini should provide Favre with the kind of winning mentality and toughness he appreciates, and hopefully with an improved roster desperately in need of a competent quarterback, the Jets can make some noise in 2008.
This move not only makes the Jets credible, it makes them competitive and worth watching, and sends a message to the rest of the AFC that they are for real.
Like it or not, Brett Favre gives the Jets something that only a handful of other teams in this league have, and thats a reliable Quarterback who has a Super Bowl ring and a winning pedigree.
Billy Joel sang “I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway”, and thats how it’s felt for a while despite some occasional success for gang green.
With Brett Favre a Jet, expect those lights to be shining brighter than ever.